On April 8, the 10th day after Shanghai’s community was locked down, it was drizzling outside, and a man was reluctant to turn on the lights in the rental house. In the corner of the dim dining table, Li Xiang, who had been idle at home all the time, began to boast to his family, saying that he had several million in the bank card. He wants to go back to his hometown in Jiangxi to get married, hold a banquet, buy a house, a car, and a diamond ring.

Jiangxi migrant worker suddenly got mental illness

Last November, from her hometown in Jiangxi, single mother Li Min moved to a rental house in Songjiang District, Shanghai, and lived with her son Li Xiang, who had worked there for many years. Later, Li Xiang’s younger brother also came to join his mother and brother. He would find a job in Shanghai, and he counted on his brother’s help to take root in this unfamiliar city.

Li Xiang was a truck driver in convoy, responsible for transporting heavy objects to companies in nearby towns. In addition to driving, he also had to help carry those heavy goods at work. The physical work, which required getting up early and returning home late at night, made him exhausted. Every time he came home from work late at night, he hastily ate the dinner prepared by his mother and went to bed.

Li Xiang had a monthly income of 8,000 to 10,000 yuan, which could support his mother and brother.

However, the pandemic has changed all that. The city blockade came suddenly. Without a pass, he could not continue working, which also cut off Li Xiang’s source of income. With tens of thousands of savings in hand but to pay rent and buy food for a family of three, he could not support it for long.

Time passed by, and Li Xiang, who had nothing to do at home, became more and more stressed.

Symptoms began to surface from a conflict. Because Li Xiang suddenly wanted to buy a new mobile phone, he quarreled with his mother and burst into tears. Li Xiang felt that he had paid too much for his family and wanted a reward, but his mother stopped him. Li Min believed it was not too late to buy the phone after the lockdown is lifted. Perhaps noticing his son just felt grieved, she comforted him with a few words of encouragement.

However, unexpectedly after the quarrel, Li Xiang’s situation turned worse. He began to keep talking about his need to climb over the wall and go out to do errands. Li Min began to worry. She consulted the neighborhood committee and asked a doctor to visit Xiang. It turned out that Li Xiang was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

After taking medicine for a week, Li Xiang’s condition was getting worse and worse. He even had a hallucination. He wanted to go home for a banquet. Li Min asked him to wake up, “but he couldn’t wake up.”

“My son has always been well-behaved and sensible, why did he suddenly become mentally ill?” Li Min didn’t understand.

Boredom and anger in COVID-19 lockdown

The above story was narrated in the article “The B-side of the Covid-19 pandemic: Sealed city, invisible psychological trauma” by the WeChat public account “Eight O’clock Jianwen,” published on May 5 Hot search. This article describes the people in mainland China who were tortured to the point of being mentally ill or on the verge of mental breakdown during the severe lockdown.

According to the article, videos started circulating widely on social media after the draconian measures were implemented nearly two months ago. As night fell, the residents of the closed community pushed open the windows, and they could be heard roaring and shouting. The sound waves rise and fall one after another, passing echoes between the vertical buildings.

The meaning carried by the shoutings is either anger, loneliness, boredom, or even simple catharsis. And this scene has also become a microcosm of public sentiment under the current epidemic outburst.

How many people are on the brink of collapse?

“Eight O’clock Jianwen” reported that Wenzhou also has a large number of migrant workers. Since the lockdown, Tang Wei has treated many patients who are migrant workers. He said, “These low-level workers living in urban villages were locked up in unfamiliar places when the epidemic came. They couldn’t go out and had no income. Their pressure was the greatest, and they were often on the verge of collapse, but they didn’t know where to find a psychiatrist and how to vent.”

Zhao Bin, a family doctor who works in a Fangcang shelter hospital in Shanghai’s Jing’an District, also met Xiaomi, a girl with intense emotions. She was unwilling to undergo nucleic acid testing and refused to leave the shelter.

Xiaomi is in her twenties and came to Shanghai to work from a southern province. Because of the Covid-19, the house she rented has been retaken by the landlord, and the community in her hometown is unwilling to accept her. If the nucleic acid turns negative, she will be homeless.

Local medical staff are still in a nightmare

Reports show that after the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, the trauma and pressure on the local medical staff in Wuhan began to surface. One healthcare worker even walked into the hospital with his legs shaking uncontrollably.

A local medical staff during the Covid-19 epidemic recalled that shortly after the pandemic ended, she developed a severe sleep disorder. She could only sleep lightly for 3 to 4 hours a day, and her personality became irritable and fragile. When she ate with friends, she broke down suddenly because of inadvertently talking about some details of the previous anti-epidemic work and wept uncontrollably in public. However, after two years, while recalling the experience again, she just thought about it silently and said softly, “I don’t remember.”

During those three months, the death rate due to suicide in Wuhan was 11.7 per million people, while the estimated average rate in the past was only 7 per million people.

This means that the death rate from suicide was over 67% higher than expected during the three months of the outbreak. The death rate due to suicide (32.2 per million population) in other regions of Hubei Province except Wuhan City was also much higher than expected (19.9 per million population), at 62%.

The more severe the epidemic, the more serious the psychological crisis will be.

Several psychiatrists from Beijing Anding Hospital and Wenzhou Kangning Hospital also told “Eight O’clock Jianwen” that since the epidemic, the number of non-suicidal self-injury and suicidal adolescent patients they have treated has increased significantly.

Unsurprisingly, migrant workers are not the only ones exposed to mental illness risks during the severe Covid-19 lockdown. Those affected may include foreigners who rushed out of the blockade and shouted “I want to die,” or college students panicking about food shortages while living far from home. 

By following an obstinate “Zero-Tolerance Covid” strategy, the Chinese communist government seems to create more problems than solve them, to the extent that there is a saying popular these days: “People are not dying from, but with, Covid-19.”

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